Returned home from Dallas

Wednesday at 1:00 3 of my co-workers and I flew from Seattle to Dallas, Texas so we could spend all day Thursday visiting a couple new fulfillment centers in the Dallas – Fort Worth area. This was my first time visiting the great state of Texas and it ended up being a lot of fun. As with any work trip, there isn’t much time for having fun because you have so much on your agenda, but we had a really good group and made the most of our short time there.

I had been wanting to check out Gas Monkey Bar ‘n Grill on this trip, and since it was only 20 minutes from the airport, everyone else was fine with it. Generally the hardest part of eating as a group is picking the place, so they were more than happy to follow my lead. I’ve mentioned this before, but in case you don’t know what I’m referring to, the restaurant is owned by the owner of Gas Monkey Garage, which is the focal point of a TV show on the Discovery Channel called ‘Fast n Loud’. It’s one of my favorite shows and based on the success of the show, the owners decided to open a restaurant, which is a really cool place with an outdoor bar, outdoor stage, huge indoor area with a stage, and of course a shopping area where you can buy all kinds of shirts and other Gas Monkey apparel.

There was some confusion on my part as to whether the location we were visiting was the main location, or just some knock-off near the airport. As it turned out there is only one Gas Monkey Bar ‘n Grill, and that’s exactly where we were. I recognized it from the show as soon as we arrived. The first thing you see when getting there is the long line of Harley’s parked out front. This wasn’t surprising, however seeing a Ferrari and a Bentley next to them was a bit unexpected. I had to remind myself that, like Seattle, Dallas is a very wealthy city, but unlike Seattle, Dallas is quite famous for flaunting that wealth, which is something that quickly became apparent to me during our visit.

I had promised a co-worker of mine that I would get him a t-shirt from the restaurant if we ended up going there, so I stayed true to my word and, after finding a table near the outside bar, I headed in to do some shopping. I ended up getting him and myself the same shirt, which is the one I constantly notice on the TV show. One of my co-workers that was there on the trip with us ended up getting her husband a shirt as well. She had never heard of the restaurant, or the TV show, but really liked the style of the place and confided in me that she is secretly and subtly trying to replace his entire wardrobe.

We ended up choosing to sit outside because it was packed inside and we would have had to wait 45 minutes for a table. It was fine though, as it was still quite warm out, plus there was a Johnny Cash tribute band playing on the outside stage. The food was good, the service was friendly, the atmosphere was exactly what I was hoping for, and all in all I left there having had exactly the type of experience I was hoping for. Nice way to start the trip!

I made a Facebook post on Tuesday night saying I was heading to Dallas for a work trip the following day and several people mentioned that I should ‘look out’ for the ebola virus, which had just been confirmed there. This was the first time a confirmed case of ebola had ever made its way into the U.S. and people were freaking out. The news channels were having a field day and there were helicopters circling the hospital where the infected person was staying 24/7. Even some of our co-workers in Seattle emailed us to ‘be careful’ while down there, as if there is something you can do to avoid it. Obviously everything turned out to be fine but it added a little drama to our excursion.

Having spent the vast majority of my life in the Pacific Northwest, I’m quite used to the attitudes and personalities associated with that area. I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way; it is what it is, but its easy to see when you go somewhere like Texas, how different the people actually are. I’ve heard people from different parts of the country say that the Pacific Northwest is very standoffish and passive aggressive. My experience in Texas made those sentiments feel pretty true. I quickly noticed how outgoing and friendly the people were there. Just based on the general way that strangers address you in various public places made me realize how different it actually was, and you know what, I liked it. I don’t mind talking to strangers and I like being friendly with people, so even though my appearance (Vans sneakers, sleeve tattoos) may not have been very ‘Texas’, my personality seemed to fit right in.

After several public encounters with these overly friendly Texans, I took to Facebook to mention my initial observations of Texas, which is that it was very hot and muggy, the people were quite friendly, and that I liked it there. It was a lighthearted comment that I didn’t expect much response to, but of course one of my Seattle ‘friends’ had to make a prototypical pretentious Seattle-like comment about how if you’re okay with being anti Women’s rights, anti voting rights, anti minority rights, anti health care for the poor, blah blah blah, then yeah Texas is great. I wanted to respond, but I knew that doing so would force me to break my number one rule with social media, which is that if you don’t have something positive to say, don’t say anything at all. His comment angered me because it felt like he was in some way insinuating that I was okay with everything he listed, and then of course several other Seattleites ‘liked’ his comment. The whole thing annoyed me and I came away from it feeling a sense of responsibility for making the mistake of saying something that could be in any way attacked or disagreed with. Even though my comment was lighthearted and positive in nature, it was no surprise that somebody was able to find a negative angle to poke at it. I guess the lesson here is to stick to posts consisting of family photos and updates. After all, no one can disagree with the adorableness of our little ones.

The actual work portion of the trip went quite well, and I enjoyed getting to observe these new state-of-the-art fulfillment centers. By far the greatest satisfaction for me came when I got to witness hundreds of people in these massive (and impressive) facilities doing their jobs on software that I helped create. It’s not very often that I get to see my work ‘in action’ in a true production environment, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. Part of that comes from the fact that I’m responsible for the visual layer of the software, which is the part that the associates are interacting with. Although I have nothing to do with the business logic or back-end of the system, I am solely responsible for coding the user interfaces that the associates see when packing orders, so I can very closely relate with everything they see on screen. I ended up spending an hour or so packing real orders with the software I helped create, and that turned out to be a lot of fun. You’d be surprised how hard it is. There are so many different sizes of boxes, different types of tape, etc. I often found myself gawking at the various products people were ordering, and in turn my packing ‘rate’ was probably unacceptable. It was obvious that I was the least experienced person on the line but the girl next to me was happy to point me in the right direction when I got lost. At the end of my session my manager asked me if anything needed to be improved in the software and my response was that the software was just fine, but that the packer (which was me) definitely needed some work.

As we left our final fulfillment center and got into the rental car, a huge thunderstorm rolled in and started dumping on us. When you combine this with being in an unknown area, the result is a rather entertaining and memorable journey back to the airport. We had plenty of time to spare and found a great restaurant on Yelp that we wanted to have dinner at. I had seen a place with the same name on the street earlier that day, so I thought that’s where the map was taking us to, but as it turned out it was navigating us to the same restaurant within the DFW airport. We quickly found ourselves driving through the airport, which is as big as Disney World, trying to find a restaurant within one of the terminals. Once we figured this out I felt a bit silly, and the rest of the group had a good laugh at my expense, but we eventually made it there and ended up having a nice meal before boarding the plane to head home.

The 4 hour flight between Seattle and Dallas is the longest flight I’ve been on in years. All of my flying in the past decade has been to either Las Vegas, San Diego, or Denver, so being on a plane for that long is a bit foreign to me. It was fine though, and gave me plenty of time to finish reading (for the 2nd time) Eric Clapton’s autobiography. I love that book so much, and since I’ve been so into playing guitar lately I felt like I needed to hear his story once again. Next up is the autobiography of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. I’m sure there will be plenty of interesting stories in that one as well. As mentioned in a previous post, I just can’t bring myself to read fiction lately, so reading the life stories of various rock stars has become my reading material of choice.

Having a trip like that breaks the week up nicely, meaning that by the time I got back into the office it was already Friday. Unfortunately the week didn’t end on a good note, as I received the news yesterday that I had been turned down for the promotion that my manager had submitted me for. We talked for quite a while and the general response I received was that I came very close to getting it, and that from a leadership standpoint, as well as a user interfaces coding standpoint, I was doing excellent and was already there. The one part I came up short in was related strictly to software engineering, which is something that I’ve been focusing on heavily but still have room to grow in. We put together a plan for how to improve on the 3 areas referenced in my feedback, and we’re both very confident that 6 months from now, when promotions are re-considered, I will have done enough to make it to the next level. Ever since I started working there everyone has made a point to tell me that getting a promotion at Amazon is extremely difficult. They simply do not promote people unless you are already doing everything a person of the next level would be doing, meaning that by the time you get promoted you have already been working in that role for some time and the promotion is just a form of recognition. I know I’m really close, and obviously I wasn’t thrilled to hear that I hadn’t made it, but I had to remind myself that 3 years ago I was a professional bartender, and today I’m being considered for a mid-level engineering role at the largest and most trusted e-commerce company in the world. When I look at it from this perspective I have nothing to be ashamed about. I’ll get there soon enough and at least now I know exactly what I need to focus on, plus I have a manager that is dedicated to getting me there.

When I write posts on here, I always try to keep in mind that the most important part about this website is to share our life experiences with our children, and this experience I had yesterday is a prime example of the kind of lesson that I want them to learn. Even though things have been going incredibly well for me over the last 3 years, there are still going to be setbacks. That’s just part of life. The important part is how you deal with those setbacks. The easy thing to do would be to get frustrated, think that their evaluation was incorrect, and start thinking about looking for a new job, but that would be the wrong approach to take, as well as the easy way out. The right thing to do is accept the fact that you are not perfect, embrace the feedback you’ve been given, and follow a plan to improve in the appropriate areas. Keeping a positive attitude throughout something like this is most important, so that’s what I’m doing. The truth is I didn’t expect to get this promotion, but going through the process, regardless of the outcome, will make me a better web developer and a better leader. I have no doubt that I’ll make it to the next level very soon, but learning how to deal with setbacks and shortcomings is the ultimate lesson here. The biggest bummer for me was that Jessica has already given me ‘permission’ to purchase a new guitar once I get promoted, but I guess that’s going to have to wait until next year. Oh well, just gives me more time to obsess over it and regularly change my mind about what I want.

In more important family news, Jessica is doing well with her pregnancy with Enzo. It’s noticeable that she is carrying Enzo lower than she carried either of the girls, and I have to remind myself to enjoy this sight because I’m never going to see it again. Elise has become quite the walker and talker lately. It seems that her favorite word is ‘Ava’, and it really reminds me of when Ava was learning to speak and couldn’t stop saying the word ‘Apple’. Although Elise hasn’t come close to reaching the level of repetition that Ava once had, I’m sure its just around the corner.

Not a lot going on this weekend. We’re doing a family trip to Costco later today, then Jessica will be working tonight. Even though I was only gone two days it felt much longer, so I’m excited to be home tonight playing with my girls. Tomorrow will probably just consist of watching football and relaxing with the family. Being away, even for the shortest of trips, makes me think long and hard about how lucky I am to have what I have. It’s too easy to dwell on the negatives in life, but ultimately I’m in a place I could have never expected with a family I barely deserve. For that, I am eternally grateful.

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